Does Auto Insurance Cover Dog Scratches?

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Whether your vehicle was scratched by your dog or someone else’s, it can be very frustrating and expensive to have the scratches repaired.

So, does auto insurance cover scratches from a dog?   Dog scratches will be covered by car insurance if you have comprehensive coverage on your policy. It does not matter if you own the dog or not. Most scratches from a dog’s claws or leash can be polished out, if not, they will need to be repainted. Re-painting a scratch can cost at least $250 per panel.

Let me go through the process of making and maximizing a claim for scratches on your vehicle.

How to Make an Insurance Claim for Dog Scratches:

  1. Confirm your damages are from a dog or another animal.   It is important that the damage is not from another vehicle as this would require using the collision coverage on your policy, which can increase your insurance rates.  Comprehensive coverage shields you from rate increases, unless you make numerous comprehensive claims. Scratches from a dog will be be consistent with the size of an animal paw and the spacing of their claws.   These scratches will usually be unevenly spaced and curved. A good auto damage adjuster inspects hundreds of vehicles each year and will be able to tell if your damage was from an animal or another vehicle.

  2. Verify that the scratches are deep enough to warrant an insurance claim.  If the scratch is deep enough to catch your fingernail, the panel will have to be repainted.  It can cost between $200 to $500 to repaint one panel on a vehicle, depending on its size and complexity.   If the scratches on your vehicle are not deep enough to catch your fingernail, then they can be polished out. A good detail shop should also be able to minimize your scratches for a reasonable price.  Depending on how many panels require repair, it might not be worth making an insurance claim if the damages are close to or slightly more than your deductible. You can always have a body shop write an estimate on your car before making an insurance claim to be certain.

  3. Call your insurance company to make a comprehensive damage claim.  Explain that you suspect the scratches on your car are from an animal such as a dog.  It does not matter if you saw the dog scratch your vehicle or not, the fact you have comprehensive coverage is enough to pay for your damages.  Set up an appointment to meet with the insurance company’s auto damage adjuster. They may ask you to come to one of their repair shops for an estimate.  Remember, you are not obligated to have your vehicle repaired at the insurance company’s repair shop. You can take your vehicle to any shop of your choice.

  4. Identify all of the scratches before meeting with the adjuster. This will prevent the adjuster from missing any damage or omitting damage they thought was unrelated.  In the past, many customers have used a paint pen to circle the damage on their vehicle prior to the appointment.  

  5. Advise your adjuster not to finalize their estimate before they are finished.  Once an adjuster finalizes or “locks” an estimate, it can usually only be re adjusted once the vehicle is undergoing repairs.  This is an important step, as you would like to review all of the damage on your car to make sure nothing was missed and your repairs are completely covered.  In case you discover missed damage later on, you can call the adjuster to request a supplement. A supplement is an adjustment made to an estimate. Supplements are usually completed at body shops once the repair facility notices new damage, but an insured such as yourself can have it completed if you found that the adjuster made a mistake.

  6. Obtain payment for your scratches.  If you own your vehicle outright, the repair check can go directly to you.  If you are leasing or still financing your car then the check will be issued dual party to you and the finance or lease company.  To avoid having the bank or lease company on the check, you can have the adjuster issue the check to you and your body shop of choice.  A tax ID number for the body shop will be required when issuing a dual party check. You will not be able to cash a dual party check and keep the insurance money without the body shop, finance, or lease company signing off. I have yet to see a 3rd party sign off on a check for a customer though, most business would not do this.

Some Paint Scratches can be Easily Fixed at Home

Before I let you go, be aware that it is fairly easy to minimize or completely remove paint scratches by yourself.

If the scratches in the paint are shallow and do not catch your fingernail, then you can attempt to polish them out.  You can apply rubbing compound (link to Amazon) with a buffer pad drill attachment (link to Amazon) in a circular motion over the scratches.

Some scratches will require light surface sanding with 3000 grit sandpaper (link to Amazon) and then moving onto 5000 grit sandpaper (link to Amazon). Finally, use rubbing compound across the repair area again and then wax it for a bright finish.